LEBANON, Ind. — Voters in Lebanon will have the opportunity to vote to help support their local school district’s construction plans when they arrive at the polls on May 3.
Among the ballot items they will encounter is one that would raise the average property tax paid to the school corporation per year by 40.09%. While this seems like a large increase, the corporation broke it down to explain what is going on in the question.
Jon Milleman, superintendent of Lebanon Community Schools, said the referendum is a penny-for-penny replacement of the current construction referendum. If passed, the funding will be split with 95% going towards academic and safety and security upgrades and the rest going to support services. The corporation emphasized that no athletic facilities are part of the referendum.
“Our construction referendum will address primarily three academic spaces within our school corporation touching each of the six current buildings, but primarily focusing on our elementary K-5 buildings as well as providing some needed upgrades and changes to our support services, which would include a transportation center and maintenance building,” said Milleman.
Among the capital projects included in the referendum are:
- improvements to surveillance equipment
- better locations for school resource officers in schools
- dedicated STEM project spaces
- new transportation and maintenance facilities
- addressing mechanical and infrastructure projects
The largest project the corporation hopes to use the referendum funding for is building a new elementary school to replace Central Elementary School. Milleman said the existing school has reached the end of its useful life, and they need a new school in order to expand. If they are able to build the new elementary school, Milleman said they plan on repurposing the old school for other district uses.
"We have needs to expand our early childhood education programming here in the district we engaged with our stakeholders very early on in this process and improving and enhancing early childhood education is something that came to the forefront very quickly as a priority for our community," said Milleman.
The building could also serve as a home base for technology programs, a career and technical education space or potentially serve the special needs population. Milleman said without the referendum, they won't be able to capture the maximum tax base to work on projects of this size.
The corporation says they estimate student enrollment to grow over the next 8 years based on a rate of 300 homes in the market per year. Currently, the corporation has almost reached capacity for elementary schools. The 2020-2021 enrollment is around 1,500. This is in comparison to the current elementary operational capacity of 1,660. Through the improvements, they would be able to increase capacity.
"We also want to make sure that we're providing an equal level of educational facilities for all four of our elementary schools, which is currently not the case," said Milleman. "So, wherever our students attend elementary, we want our parents to know that that we have an equal level of facility for those students."
Milleman reminds people that by investing in schools, they invest in the community. The corporation cites the National Bureau of Economic Research and UpNest in saying for every $1 spent on school funding, property values increase by around $20.
People can read more about the school corporation's referendums by visiting their website.